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Finding the Right Fit: All MSPs are not created equal

Jan 18,2018 / by Sam

So, you’ve decided that your business could use some outside help on the technology side and you’re thinking about bringing in a managed services provider (MSP). Your reasons for looking at hiring an MSP may vary.

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Maybe you’re after efficiency. You’re looking to section off some IT responsibilities to an MSP at a fixed monthly cost, which could bring cost savings. The MSP could be able to do the tasks better than your in-house IT team. This can also allow you to refocus your in-house IT department on higher-order tasks, for example, driving business value by improving or creating line-of-business applications rather than chasing down help desk tickets or patching servers.

It could be possible you want to transition your IT infrastructure to a cloud-first approach and want professional help to manage the move and administer the cloud services on your behalf. Or you may have learned about an MSP with expertise in your industry that provides high-value vertical solutions along with standard IT services, and such a complete package could give your company the competitive edge in your geographical area.

Hiring an MSP for your business requires some internal analysis before a decision can be made. It requires evaluating whether the costs of an MSP will really result in savings if the move is about efficiency, whether the current IT department can grow into higher-value roles if you’re looking to invest in business-growth IT, and whether the MSP’s cloud or vertical bundles will be more efficient for your company, among other things.

Here are some questions you may consider while looking to make your move to an MSP.

Are we in this MSP’s sweet spot for customer size?

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MSPs are radically different depending on the size of businesses they typically serve. The biggest group of MSPs serve small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) who are usually looking for an IT provider to take care of all of their IT needs. Such MSPs tend to interact directly with the owner of the company, helping set the overall technology strategy and then handling the IT system maintenance.

MSPs that work directly with IT managers are usually focused on mid-sized organizations. They can be general-purpose MSPs that take care of some of the functions of the in-house IT department. Although such contracts are usually for smaller mid-sized companies, some general-purpose IT service providers also handle technology needs for very large companies. Midsized businesses and enterprises may contract with one or more MSPs that meet specific needs - for example, a managed security services provider (MSSP). Midsized and larger organizations usually look at hiring MSPs to free up their in-house IT department for higher-order tasks.

Do we see eye to eye on cloud?

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Most people think that integrating cloud services with IT infrastructure is a train that has long left the station. But many IT departments still haven't boarded that train. The issue is especially common among small SMBs, who still favor on-premises solutions.

Regardless of whether you want to have a cloud-based infrastructure or keep as much of your infrastructure on-premises for as long as possible, you’d do best hiring an MSP that understands the drawbacks and advantages of several approaches and can lay options before you. Understanding an MSP’s philosophy on cloud will help you determine whether that MSP’s agenda fits with yours.

Where does the service actually live?

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If you’re considering moving your help desk functionality to an MSP, you should understand exactly what the MSP is offering. Many MSPs claim to have a 24x7 help desk, but they’re not necessarily offering it directly. They may instead be using a 3rd party service and whitelabeling it. In other words, they may be contracting with a bigger provider who answers the phone under the name of the local MSP. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since sometimes if you’re working with a small MSP, it is linking you to a more robust service than its own techs could provide or using a third-party provider to reduce hold times. However, it also might be an offshore service with possible language challenges or the third-party help desk provider may be incompetent. Ensure you remain aware of this nuance and clarify with the MSP before you hire.

Another aspect is backup and recovery, which is one of the most common MSP services. Ensure that you frequently work with the MSP to regularly test recoveries to ensure that backups are current and the MSP’s backup provider is capable of bringing your business back into operation in case of an outage.

Does the MSP understand my industry?

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A good knowledgeable MSP will recommend improvements beyond your hardware. They should be able to provide insight to help improve your workflow, training, and software systems. The right MSP for your business will be one with the best understanding of your business and industry.

Leveraging an MSP can make your IT department more efficient and effective under the right circumstances, if you choose your provider carefully by asking the right questions.

Here is a consolidated list of questions to ask. Does your prospective MSP:

  • Have experience with organizations your size?
  • Understand your industry and business well?
  • Have specific or general expertise?
  • Share the same view of cloud computing as you?
  • Offer what it actually claims to provide, such as 24x7 telephone support?
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Sam

Written by Sam

I'm very interested in the technology of all things. I like to write about these things.